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Media outlets have the “right-to-know” in Pennsylvania

On Behalf of | Apr 15, 2020 | First Amendment/right To Know Law |

Despite the negative stigma, media outlets serve a significant purpose in American society. Journalists act as a fourth pillar in the foundation of democracy because journalists are “watchdogs” over most politicians. They are the only pillar that informs the public about the harsh realities of American politics.

And due to civic responsibility, many politicians or government agencies make it challenging for Pennsylvanian news outlets to receive requested information surrounding specific data, statistics or decisions in the government.

A reporter’s right to know

When agencies create hurdles for public information, it violates the fundamentals of Pennsylvania’s Right To Know act, which allows the public’s access to government records to be easier. Under the act, all documents are presumed to be public unless the government agency has “compelling reasons” to keep them private.

Unfortunately, some agencies still deny record requests from specific news organizations or reporters due to bias or personal reasons. However, news outlets can fight back with the Right To Know act and possibly receive up to $1500 for each record denied.

The law even made the burden of proof on governmental agencies to show why a record should not be released to the public instead of the person or organization requesting the information. It gives news outlets a better chance to receive information and compensation for their efforts.

Journalists need to know that they should be encouraged to investigate and report their findings back to the general public – not persecuted because they are looking into government information. If you feel your right to know was violated, consider filing a complaint against the agency and bringing the fight to court if necessary.